By: Hidayat Khan
PESHAWAR: The family of 22-month-old Sawera, who was gang-raped and killed in Pabbi last week, blames police apathy for the failure in bringing the perpetrators of the heinous act to justice. The victim’s father has even threatened self-immolation if the culprits are not apprehended.
Sawera’s body was found on Friday evening in a field near her house in Mohallah Khan Sher Garhi. Her parents said the girl left home to buy candy from a nearby shop and did not return.
It’s been several days, and Sawera’s family, along with community members believe that the suspects arrested by police so far are not the rapists.
Earlier, the victim’s father, Nasir Khan, had appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan as well as the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government to ensure his daughter’s killers were brought to task. On Saturday the CM took notice of the incident and asked DPO Nowshera to submit a report. K-P Chief Minister Pervez Khattak visited Sawera’s family and offered Rs200,000 as compensation for their loss.
“I don’t need money from the chief minister. I just want the government to arrest the criminals,” said Khan, who earns a living by selling vegetables on his push cart. The enraged father stammered in his speech while demanding his daughter’s killers be arrested immediately. “If we are not provided justice, I will have no option but self-immolation,” he said.
The murder and gang-rape of a small child is bound to leave a mark on any family or community, but Pabbi villagers were shocked by the child’s brutal death, as locals say such incidents were rare in their relatively peaceful area. They fear their children remain at risk until the rapists are caught.
“We have been told that progress has been made in the investigation but no real suspect has been arrested,” said Asif Khan, Sawera’s uncle. Pabbi police station SHO said that seven more people were arrested on Tuesday, but villagers claim that there was no evidence pointing to these suspects. “It will take time to trace the criminals, however, efforts are under way and the DNA tests have been sent to Islamabad,” the SHO said.
Situated on GT Road, Pabbi is a relatively peaceful area where violent crimes of this nature are rare. Sawera’s neighborhood, Mohallah Tajabad, is a cluster of houses situated among lush green fields, where women and children have roamed freely for decades, according to residents.
While speaking to The Express Tribune outside the victim’s home, villagers said their children now fear leaving their homes.
“They will come back, as they are now addicted to human blood,” said Naveed Khan, one villager. Khan was scared for his children, who he feels are vulnerable to the rapists that are still at large.
Special investigation officer, Khurshid Khan, told The Express Tribune that police have formed a six-member committee to involve the local community in the investigations.
“The post mortem revealed that three people raped the child before she was brutally killed,” Khan confirmed.
According to the SHO, the DNA tests of 15 people have been sent to the capital for testing. “If there fails to be a match from these, we will conduct the test for the entire village,” the police official said, adding that if required, they will extend testing to surrounding villages as well.
Despite what Sawera’s family members and other villagers believe about the investigation being weak, police have arrested several people, including those from the areas surrounding the victim’s residence.
Some villagers believe that the influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs) into their area has altered demographic dynamics and have fragmented the community. Previously, locals knew their neighbours and could trust them.
They claim that crime has increased as a result of the demographic changes.
“Before outsiders came in, there was no existence of such heinous crimes in the area,” one villager said, adding that police action in this regard was dismal.